The value of the academic

I was reminded today that the work of an academic should not be out of touch with reality. A friend of mine believes that academics are out of touch with reality. On the one hand I agree that academics should not be out of touch with reality and on the other I disagree as there have been significant influences and strides in the world because of academics. Yes, while we have to research new frontiers and interact with often lofty ideas, these new frontiers and ideas have to have real-life value and application, otherwise it is of little or no use to the public. After all, academics are meant to engage with these ideas and frontiers in order to better the plight of the public.

The area of my interest and research is theology. Well, practical theology, to be precise. Theology should really be the study of God’s interactions with people in order that people may discover God and meaning in their daily lives. Theology is one of the disciplines that is probably undermined more than any other discipline today probably because the world seems to become more and more secular with no need to understand why theology is needed. Often times it is argued that theology is the study of fairy-tales and folklore and only the unenlightened believe what we do. Often times it is said that much of the hatred and violence in the world today, or even in history, is because of and based upon religious beliefs and Christianity is not without guilt. I think because of all these reasons and many others, there is a need for theology today.

I am therefore glad that my friend that reminded me of the role of academics. If we are to merely do “research” especially in theology then of what value are we? More than ever today, there is a need and an important function for theology today. Not only to point people to God, but to be a voice amidst the moral decline that is so evident everywhere across the world, and to be a voice that is asking all the tough questions that is often not allowed to be asked in many churches. If not theology, then what? If not the academic, then who?

Ps. And NO, I don’t teach because I can’t do. Everyone has their calling in life. What is yours?